December 4, 2000
Multiple benefits can come from speed training
by Deborah Stone
Most sports today depend on speed skills to generate successful results in competition.
To better their performance on the field or the court, many athletes work on speed training through programs that stress the biomechanics of human movement.
One such program, Speed Quest Academy, founded by Eastside resident Gary Larson, tailors its speed and acceleration training to children, ages 10-16, emphasizing instruction in the physics of the human body and applications of its principles.
Larson, a physical education instructor with over twelve years' coaching experience in track, football, baseball and basketball, started Speed Quest three years ago because of the need he saw for improved speed and body control in the athletes he worked with at the high school and college levels.
He says, "The impetus for the Academy came from my years of coaching student athletes and what I saw boiled down to plain speed. That was the key to success in competition. It was amazing to see the results that occurred when actual instruction was given in the correct mechanics of running.
"Once the athletes made the connections within their bodies, there was immediate improvement in their overall performance. I thought that this type of training could really have powerful results if used on athletes at a younger age. There was no need to wait until they got older."
Speed Quest's philosophy is based on biomechanical principles and the laws of physics that govern speed and acceleration.
According to Larson, training the neuro pathways for greater communication and body control leads to higher levels of performance.
This is accomplished by activating the neuromuscular system and applying the concepts of motion, inertia, line, strike, rotation, frequency, force application and recovery.
"I use a systematic sequential program that employs active drills that work through a full range of motion and serve to activate the explosive system within the body," explains Larson.
Children move from one level to the next at their own pace, refining and honing mastery of one concept at a time.
Larson instructs, demonstrates, analyzes and provides individualized feedback to each student.
There are four levels in the program with ten steps to each level. Level one introduces the basic concepts whereas the subsequent levels work on deceleration patterns (short starts and stops with bursts of speed), lateral mechanics and specific movement and directional patterns.
"I notice so many people who are running incorrectly and, after awhile, they develop bad habits which eventually lead to injuries," comments Larson. "I see improper mechanics, such as problems with rotation of the upper levers and the degree of angle of the body.
"These problems and habits can be corrected with proper instruction and practice over time. Consistent work in these areas will result in synchronization of the upper and lower levers in the proper positions, balance on either side of the force line of the body, increase in speed, acceleration and overall efficiency of the body when running."
Larson's coaching style focuses on using three methods of teaching: verbal, visual and kinesthetic. He feels that everyone learns differently and to reach each person effectively, he must offer a variety of methods. "Research has shown that these are most important methods," explains Larson. "Some kids learn well visually, but others need a kinesthetic approach. When I use all three, I cover the bases and this helps to reinforce the principles."
In addition to the physical changes Larson sees when coaching kids, there are also other changes that occur, which are equally as impressive.
He says, "When kids master a concept and move from stage to stage, level to level, there is an increase in their confidence and a boost in self-esteem that are both very noticeable. They feel good about themselves and these feelings transfersto their daily lives. I have had so many parents tell me how amazing this change is and how wonderful it is to watch it happen in their own kids."
Larson's passion for coaching children comes from the gratification he gets from helping kids understand how their bodies work and then applying this knowledge to make a difference in the way they move.
He says, "It's such positive and rewarding work and it gives me incredible satisfaction to see kids achieve their goals."
For more information about Gary Larson's Speed Quest Academy, call (425) 868-3306.